Hangin' with the Church Lady

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The marriage deteriorated. She agonized over the idea of divorce, especially since the Bible forbids it. During this dark time, she says Jesus spoke to her during an impromptu visit to West Lauderdale Baptist Church. "I blacked out," she said. "And from within my spirit, I hear a man's voice. And I have this vibration sensation in my body, like electricity buzzing in a power line. Power, power. I'm feeling this veveveveh. And the voice said, 'If you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father. '"

She paused before pronouncing, "Jesus was speaking to me." And she says it happened exactly the same way five times during the service. Call it multiple miracles.

Hostetter divorced her husband in 1980 and found a Biblical justification for her action. "The loophole is that if you're married to a non-Christian and they leave, in the sense they are unfaithful or other things, then you are OK," she said. "My husband wasn't a Christian. In the Bible, they call it 'equally yoked.' We weren't equally yoked."

In the same year as the divorce, she ran for City Council in Plantation and lost. She was also instrumental in founding Heritage Park on Fig Tree Road and was appointed to the county's land-use planning board by Anne Kolb, Broward's first female commissioner.

In 1983, she met a man at a Bible study group. Chemicals catalyzed, and she quickly remarried. "We learned in Realtor school that there are four types of people: sensors, thinkers, feelers, and intuitives," she said. "I'm a sensor, and the symbol for that is a lightning rod. I make quick decisions. And we were busy, busy, busy and had a child that same year."

The birth of her son, who is now 20, slowed down her political work. The second marriage didn't work out, and she divorced him in 2000. A second broken family. Curious, I asked her point-blank if she'd ever fornicated, if she had ever been one of those dreaded people Dozier won't allow in his choir.

"Oh, you're not going to write that, are you?" she said. "God doesn't expect me to be perfect. I'm not Jesus. But I definitely need forgiveness."

Free from marriage, she returned full-tilt to the political circuit, and the Boy Scout controversy of 2001 put her squarely back into the game. Hostetter lobbied the School Board to reinstate the Scouts. While she made headway with some members like Darla Carter and Judie Budnick, others (Lois Wexler, Carole Andrews, and Beverly Gallagher) so despised her message that they wouldn't even meet with her.

She lost the Boy Scout issue, but it didn't dissuade her. God again spoke to her, only this time through Pearl Harbor, the overdrawn war and romance bomb starring Ben Affleck, which she saw on June 10, 2001, her 55th birthday. God told her that she was in a war and that she must be a steadfast soldier. The Japanese attacks represented "pornography, sexuality, the school situation, abortion, the breakdown of family -- not that I'm perfect by any means," she said. "We've got the ammunition. We've got the truth. We need to organize and get these planes off the ground. We need to get the Christian worldview out there to save our culture and our nation."

In October 2001, she began firing her ammo at the proposed GLSEN partnership. Hostetter did everything she could to stop it, enlisting right-wing radio host Steve Kane to rant about it, helping to get fundamentalists like TV preacher D. James Kennedy involved, and drumming up lots of media coverage.

The board defeated the measure by a 6-3 vote. "It was a shock," she says of her success, "but it was wonderful."

And short-lived. Despite her frenetic efforts, a new GLSEN contract, which excluded the counseling of students, was approved in April 2002.

Bitter from the defeat, Hostetter, who now lives in Davie, ran for the School Board in September. By that time, she had gotten newspaper ink. "Whenever a reporter needs an antigay Christian bigot, they call Margaret," she explained with a laugh.

Despite the publicity, Hostetter finished next to last among five contenders, gaining only 17 percent of the vote. But in another race, Darla Carter pulled off an upset win over incumbent Paul Eichner, who supported GLSEN. To Hostetter, Carter was a friend and sympathetic soul; the board member once compared GLSEN to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Hostetter said she remarked to Carter at her victory party that the diversity committee was so diverse that there were no WASPs on it. "I want to be that WASP," she told Carter.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman